For anyone sailing in the UK, if only for a weekend, it's hard to beat the Solent. It's a nice stretch of protected water, flanked by the flat (and in some places industrial) coastline between Portsmouth to Lymington and the rolling hills of the Isle of Wight.
You charter in a ton of places. I strongly recommend Sunsail in Port Solent. It's big organization that charters dozens of boats. They are well-organized. We chartered a Sunfast 37 a couple of times. It's fast but sturdy and well-equipped for a cross-channel crossing if that's what tickles your fancy. The only downer is that it's a long way up the river from Portsmouth which can be a bit of a pain.
The Solent can get pretty crowded in the summer but it's quite entertaining getting caught up in the races.
You also see some lovely boats of all shapes and sizes. The best thing is the annual Round the Island Race in June with 1500 boats on the line doing the 50 miles around the IOW. It's fantastic fun.
Everyone goes to Cowes which if you didn't know already is a yachtie mecca. I prefer Yarmouth. It's smaller, more down-to-earth and there is always a great atmosphere in the jam-packed harbor. Tip: It has very good showers and excellent pubs.
Here is a nice post on an English guy's blog about his weekend on the Solent
We recently chartered from Sunsail in Annapolis. It was a great experience. The base is excellent, well-equipped and very well-managed by Matthias a delightful French guy. We chartered a 37' Hunter with built-in AC, a critical feature for cruising the Chesapeake in August. The boat was 10 years old but well-maintained and kitted out with everything you could possibly need including a bloody electric waffle iron and a microwave!
The only problem we had was the engine played-up. Matthias graciously waived the gas fees to make up for it.
That said I give this place 4 out 5.
If you haven't sailed Chesapeake Bay, I strongly recommend it. It is a beautiful wide bay banked by green countryside. We sailed to St Michael's for an overnight and stayed at the St Michael's Marina. St Mike's has Revolutionary War charm, a some great places to eat and an excellent open-air maritime museum that gives Mystic Seaport a run for its money. St Mike's Marina is well-run operation but jam-packed full of motor boats ands very expensive.
We have sailed in Turkey twice. Both times on Sunsail Charters and I can recommend it to anyone for a zillion reasons. First is that the Turks are great people. Genuinely friendly not just after your bucks. The place is beautiful. The food is great. Oh yeah! the sailing is good too. Here's a great article with lots of cool stuff about Bodrum and nearby.
Both trips were on the Carian Coast, the first around the peninsula that Bodrum is on and the second on the Datcha peninsula.
What you can expect is perfect Med sailing with blue seas, good winds (sometimes it can get a little too exciting), a rocky sometimes a little barren coastline, nice little islands with goats and fig trees and some great little restaurants up inlets that are only accessible by water. This was one of the best things about sailing in Turkey. You radio ahead and tell them if you want fish or meat and when you get there, you and any other boats at the restaurant are there business for the night. the meals are simple, either the freshest fish you've ever eaten or some OK meat.
The towns are trully delightful. My favorite is Gumusluk, a quiet little town close to Bodrum. There is a great restaurant on the harbor front (actually it pretty much is the harbor front) which has a big chill-out area under an enormous fig tree, with rugs and big cushions laid out.
An absolute must is a shave at the little barber on dock. Get them to singe your nose and ear hairs. It's quite exhilarating.
Go to Turkey. Trust me. And get there before everyone else does.
I had never heard of Moth Internationals but apparently they have been sailing or ...er flying since the 1920s. It seems to an Australian thing. (One more great reason to go to Australia). I found this video on Youtube of the ABN Amro crew on a stopover in Oz trying one out.The quality is bad but its' still spectacular. These things must be going 30-40 knots or more. They look incredibly tricky to sail and the design is very clever. The outriggers are really wings and there are all sorts of interesting little tricks like a hydrofoil on the rudder.
It's a time-lapse video of the Panama Canal. Big ships coming and going round the clock. A few little sailboats come through. All sped up. The resolution is pretty bad but it's incredibly compelling. Very cool.
We were sailing out of St Michael's MD into the Eastern Bay in August when we saw one of the most amazing things I have seen sailing a log canoe. They are about 25' long and made from ~7 logs cut from the same tree. Because they started as working boats on the Chesapeake, they are flat-bottom with sliding planks using crew for ballast. They have the most amazing rigs on any boat I've seen.
We were lucky enough to get caught in the midle of a race. Seeing 6-8 of these sailing against each other was absolutely spectacular.
This story on the BBC News site is stunning. Three Mexican fisherman were out in the Pacific fishing. Their engine failed and the weather and currents took over. They were washed out into the Pacific for 9 months (YES 9 MONTHS), surviving on rain water and raw seabirds. they eventually ran into a Chinese ship.
This amazes me in two ways. First, whenever I've been cruising, I panic when we are down to our last beer and the fridge isn't working well. Secondly, it sort of backs up the theories that ancient civilizations were able to cross the Pacific.
Anyone whos' sailed on Barnegat Bay, NJ knows that it's bloody shallow and a little narrow in places but otherwise a lovely stretch of water. In today's NY Times there was great article about the come-back of A-Cats a 1920s wooden 1-class fleet in NJ.